The rise of budget airlines has made travelling more accessible than ever before. But while many of these airlines are tempting passengers with unbelievably low flight prices, we sometimes have to ask ourselves; is the cheap flight worth the price we pay? Here are our essential tips for flying with budget airlines and avoiding any unpleasant surprises.
1. Don’t guess how much your bag weighs
This is a great tip even if you’re not flying with a budget airline – always weigh your bags before you leave to avoid being stung with excess baggage fees at check-in, especially if you’re flying with carry-on luggage only.
You can do this by putting your luggage on bathroom scales at home, or better still, purchase an electronic luggage scale so you always know exactly how much your luggage weighs. There’s no point in snagging a bargain ticket price if you end up forking out for excess baggage.
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2. Triple check the spelling of your name
This one’s important! If you’ve got a spelling error in your name, you’ll have to pay for a name change on your tickets, and if you read the fine print of your airline’s policy, this is often a very steep fee. You may end up paying the cost again of your ticket, so to avoid your bargain fare turning into an expensive nightmare, make sure you triple check that all your details are correct when purchasing your fare.
3. Double check which airport you fly from or to
You might have found a bargain flight into London, but don’t assume it goes to Heathrow Airport! London, like many cities around the world, has more than one airport, so always double check which one your flight actually lands at. Some budget airlines are able to offer incredibly good deals because they fly into smaller airports, and you may find yourself further out of the city than you anticipated.
Handy hint: Make sure you’ve sorted how you’re getting to and from the airport, especially if you’re flying into a smaller airport and one you’re unfamiliar with, as taxis and public transport may be harder to access. For peace of mind, pre-book an airport transfer on Jayride.com to ensure a seamless journey.
4. Ask yourself if you need to pay for your seat selection
Pay-as-you-go fares of budget airlines are great in that you only pay for what you want, but it means there’s an extra fee for just about everything else! If you’re six foot tall, or use the bathroom frequently, then it’s probably worth forking out the extra fee to choose an aisle seat. If you don’t mind where you sit though, then skip this step and let the airline choose. However, you might find it’s worth paying a little more to secure the seat of your choice.
5. Shop around
If you’ve found a great fare, but it’s considerably more than what you expected once you add in all the extras, don’t assume it’s still the cheapest fare going. You may find that more premiere airlines have similar prices, and possibly more comfort, so shop around and see what other airlines are offering. (However, even despite all the additional fees you’re paying, budget airlines are still often the cheaper option.)
6. Double check for automatic add-ons
Often when you go through the booking process, airlines will automatically add on things like seat selection and insurance, meaning the additional costs is automatically added to your total cost. Go through the booking process slowly and carefully, and make sure you unselect anything you don’t want to pay for.
7. Pack your own food
Budget airlines don’t usually offer meals in the ticket price, so one way to keep the cost down (and not pay through-the-nose for average airline food) is to bring your own food. Most airlines allow it, so pack a few snacks in your carry-on to tide you over until you land and can enjoy a proper meal. Remember to pack an empty water bottle (a full one won’t pass the liquid restrictions of carry-on) so you can fill it up once you’re past security and stay hydrated on the flight.
Handy hint: Think about your fellow passengers when packing your own food and avoid anything odorous, like tuna, eggs or a cheeseburger, or anything that makes too much of a mess. Diced fruit and vegetables, rice crackers, muesli bars and dried fruit are good options, but avoid things like peanuts, as many people have serious allergic reactions.
8. Wear your bulky clothing
To avoid going over the limit of your carry-on bag, make sure you wear the heavier, bulkier items of your luggage, and layer up. Remember, you can always take them off once you’re in the plane. Coats, scarves, bulky shoes and hats should be worn when checking in, rather than packed in your bag, where they will take up precious space – and weight!
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9. Pay for any extras online
If you do want to pay extra for certain things like seat selection or checked baggage, make sure you do it online prior to check-in, as it’s almost always going to be more expensive to pay for it at the airport.
10. Avoid booking a flight with a short layover
While airlines endeavour to deliver passengers in a punctual fashion, the reality is often very different. If you’ve booked two separate flights and have a short stopover before the connecting flight, but your first flight is delayed, you may miss the connecting flight; unfortunately, most budget airlines won’t pay for a new ticket. Allow yourself a longer layover so that even if your flight is delayed, you’ll hopefully still make your connecting flight.
11. Always read the fine print
Any nasty surprises that come from booking a too-good-to-be-true ticket are usually not surprises – the terms and conditions of the fare are written in the fine print, so make sure you read them and become aware of any quirky rules and fees that may be lurking. Things like whether an airline will pay for a new ticket because of a cancelled flight and check-in fees and other hidden costs will be in the fine print, so get familiar with it before you make a purchase.
12. Print your boarding pass before travelling
Many small budget airlines will charge to print your boarding pass, so in case of a digital failure (phone battery running out for example!) meaning you don’t have access to your boarding pass on your phone or tablet, always keep a printed copy handy.
Do you have any tips for flying with budget airlines? Tell us in the comments below.